Photo of John L. Burmeister

    John L. Burmeister

    Alumni Distinguished Professor
    Associate Chair

    Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
    102A Brown Laboratory
    University of Delaware
    Newark, Delaware 19716

    Phone: (302) 831-1130
    FAX: (302) 831-6335


    John Burmeister was born in Fountain Springs, Pennsylvania in 1938. He received his B.S. degree from Franklin and Marshall College in 1959 and his Ph.D. from Northwestern University in 1963. His doctoral research was carried out under the supervision of Professor Fred Basolo.

    His research and teaching experience includes two summers (1956 and 1957) spent as a laboratory assistant with the Bakelite Company, two summers (1959 and 1960) spent as a research chemist with Union Carbide Plastics Company, and a year's tenure (1963-64) as an Instructor in Inorganic Chemistry at the University of Illinois. He has been a faculty member of the University of Delaware since September of 1964, having been promoted to Professor of Chemistry in 1973. He has been the Associate Chairman of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department since 1974. He served as an Associate Director of the Center for Catalytic Science and Technology in the Department of Chemical Engineering for two years following its inception in 1978. In 1993, he was named the University of Delaware's second Alumni Distinguished Professor, in "recognition of his excellence in teaching and extraordinary commitment to students."

    He was the recipient of the Gelewitz Award given by Northwestern University in 1963, Excellence in Teaching Awards given by the Lindback Foundation and the University of Delaware Alumni Association in 1968 and again in 1979, and a Silver Anniversary Chemical Manufacturers Association Catalyst Award for Excellence in Chemistry Teaching in 1981. He received a Mortar Board Faculty Recognition Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1984 and was named the College of Arts and Science Professor of the Year in 1985. He was chosen as the 1994 Professor-of-the-Year for the State of Delaware by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, as well as the 1994 Distinguished Delaware Scientist by the Delaware Academy of Science. In 1997, he was awarded honorary membership in Alpha Lambda Delta for his excellence in teaching, as well as the College of Arts and Science Alumni Distinguished Professor Award. He is a member of the American Chemical Society, Sigma Xi, Phi Lambda Upsilon, Phi Kappa Phi, and Omicron Delta Kappa. He has been a consultant for the Sun Oil Company, AMP, Inc., the Control Data Corporation (for its PLATO chemistry lesson development) and E. I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., as well as many chemical publishers, and was a member of the Editorial Advisory Boards of INORGANICA CHIMICA ACTA (1967-1988) and SYNTHESIS AND REACTIVITY IN INORGANIC AND METALORGANIC CHEMISTRY (1970-1998).

    He was associate chairman of the Molecular Structure Section of the 1967 Delaware Science Symposium, chairman of the Inorganic Topical Group of the Delaware Section, ACS, and executive secretary of the Intercollegiate Student Chemists. He has been both an alternate councilor and a councilor for the Section, and was program chairman for the Chemical Education Division of the 11th Middle Atlantic Regional Meeting and the Inorganic Division of the 16th MARM. He also served as the Secretary-Treasurer of the Inorganic Division of the American Chemical Society during the period 1975-1977 and was one of its alternate councilors (1977-79). He was a 1983 Associate of the ACS National Committee on Chemical Education, and was a member of the ACS Division of Chemical Education's National Task Force on the Professional Status of Chemical Education, as well as its National Program Committee (1990-1992).

    He has published one book and over 115 research papers and reviews in the area of the coordination chemistry of ambidentate ligands.

    He has also been active in community affairs, having served as a Ruling Elder in the Head of Christiana United Presbyterian Church for eighteen years and as the President of the Board of Directors of the Covered Bridge Farms Maintenance Corporation during the period 1977-79. He has served as the Chairman of the University's Athletic Governing Board and as its NCAA Faculty Representative since 1981.

    Current Interests

    Chemical research has been a major interest of mine since joining the University of Delaware faculty in 1964. Indeed, my students and I pioneered the investigation of the coordination chemistry of ambidentate ligands. This has involved the mentorship of 16 Ph.D., 19 M.S. and 45 undergraduate research students, as well as six postdoctoral associates. Our work has produced 119 published research papers and reviews, including the most cited paper ever published in Coordination Chemistry Reviews 3, 222-245 (1968).

    However, since becoming the first (and only) Associate Chair of the department in 1974, my interests have shifted, inexorably, in the direction of chemical education. They have now reached the point at which they are all-encompassing. In the process, I have been on the leading edge of a significant number of pedagogical innovations, including self-paced and computer-assisted learning, instructional television and, most recently, instructional cinema.

    As Associate Chair, my primary responsibility lies in overseeing our entire undergraduate program, from teaching assignments through scheduling to teacher evaluation. I interface strongly with our graduate program in the areas of TA preparation, assignment, and evaluation. I believe that I have been an effective ombudsman for both undergraduate and graduate students, and welcome contacts for any and all items of mutual concern.

    Representative Publications

    • J. A. Albanese, D. L. Staley, A. L. Rheingold and J. L. Burmeister, Phosphorus Ylides as Hard Donor Ligands: Synthesis and Characterization of MCl4(ylide-O)(THF) (M=Ti, Zr, and Hf; Ylide = (Acetylmethylene) triphenylphosphorane; (Benzoylmethylene) triphenylphosphorane). Molecular Structure of trans-(Acetylmethylene) triphenylphosphorane-O)-tetrahydrofuran)- tetrhydrofuran)tetrachlorotitanium(IV)-Tetrahydrofuran, Inorg. Chem. 29, 2209-2213 (1990)spacer
    • J. A. Brady, J. N. Milbury-Steen and J. L. Burmeister, Lewis Structure Skills: Taxonomy and Difficulty Levels, J. Chem. Ed. 67, 491-493 (1990)spacer
    • J. L. Burmeister, Ambidentate Ligands: The Schizophrenics of Coordination Chemistry," Coor. Chem. Rev. 105, 77-134 (1990).spacer
    • J. L. Burmeister, The Modern Academic Scientist: Mentor, CEO, or Welfare Queen in a White Lab Coat?, Trans. Del. Acad. Sci. 21, 1-11 (1996).spacer
    • F. Basolo and J. L. Burmeister, On Being Well-Coordinated: A Half-Century of Research on Transition Metal Complexes, World Scientific Publishing Co., Singapore, (2003).
    • J. L. Burmeister, An Ode to Self-paced Instruction via the Keller Method, View From the Front, 4, 1 (2005).


Department Website Button
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

University of Delaware Button
University of Delaware



    Last Updated: December 20, 2007

    This document was designed by Robbie Miller and is maintained by Jen Dulany.
    Send comments and suggestions to